Katie Askew

Efficiency and The Magic House

Katie Askew
Efficiency and The Magic House

My apartments in New York City were small...obviously. My first year there, I shared a studio apartment that just about hit my limits on shared square footage with human beings I wasn’t married to. But, the apartment of one of the families I nanny Monaco takes small-space living to the extreme.

The girls’ friends called it The Magic House: Four people in a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment. The parents sleep in a Murphy bed in the living room, but I didn’t even realize it was there because it’s hidden behind an incredible work of art painted by the mom’s father (I bet you can’t guess who he is).

The girls also sleep on Murphy beds that pull down to cover their desks. The washing machine is about half the size of what we use in America, and it’s hidden in a cabinet that doubles as a seat (no dryers because this is the Mediterranean, and all those pictures of clothes lines hanging off balconies are entirely accurate).

The kitchen table chairs all have storage underneath. The fridge is the size of the one we all used in college, but because everything you buy here is fresh—and not made to feed a family of ten in bulk—it’s just the right size. They have a storage freezer hidden in the closet in the hallway; the oven is the size of a microwave, and on and on and on. It truly is magic. (I should mention that their balcony has an unobstructed view of the sea and the entirety of Monaco-ville including the Grimaldi’s Castle. When the doors are open, it suddenly feels like their space is infinite.)

My apartment, on the other hand, is similar to one of those Asian-style houses where they somehow fit ten people in a closet-sized space. However, I’m only here to sleep and shower. My windows overlook a garden, so I don’t mind. But, the couch doubles as a bed when you pull off the armrests and back cushions and cover the mattress with sheets. The washing machine fits snugly underneath the bathroom sink. The pantry and wardrobe space touch the ceiling, hanging over the bed. The step stool is my best friend.

Maybe nothing feels like it’s missing because nobody here has a sprawling green backyard lawn and a 900 square-foot kitchen. Or, maybe it’s because this is my fourth time in Europe, and second time living with an Italian family, so I’m already used to it. Possibly, it’s because families here are close and make time together a priority. Whatever the reason, it works.